We judge a thing to be good or evil, it is from God


Seventh indication


QUESTION: The authorities of the Mu‘tazila regard the creation of evil as evil, and therefore do not attribute the creation of unbelief or misguidance to God. By doing so, they think they are holding God free from any kind of defect or wrong action. However, in regarding humanity as the creator of evil deeds, they fall into misguidance.

The Mu‘tazilite authorities also hold that by committing a major sin, a believer loses their belief, for committing such a grave sin cannot be reconciled with believing in God and the punishment of Hell. Committing major sins means disregarding God’s “wrath” and the eternal punishment of Hell. So, if a person, who for fear of imprisonment in the world restrains themselves from doing anything contrary to the law, commits any of those sins, this certainly demonstrates their lack of belief.

THE ANSWER: As explained in the Twenty-Sixth Word, which is concerned with Divine Destiny and Decree, the creation of evil is not evil; doing an evil act is evil. For creation considers all the results to issue from the action carried out. Since the existence of an evil is preliminary to many good results, if one takes these results into consideration, the creation of evil becomes good. For example, fire produces numerous good results. If, through misuse of their free will, some people make fire an evil for themselves, they cannot claim that the creation of fire is evil. Similarly, the creation of satans has numerous wise results like causing human progress in many respects. So, if some are defeated by satans by misusing their free will and doing evil acts, they cannot assert that the creation of Satan is evil. Rather, they do evil to themselves by misusing their free will to do an evil.

A person concentrates only on what they do, without knowing or intending the good results that come from it, and so may cause an evil result to come about. But out of pure grace, God causes numerous good results to come from an evil act, and considers these results while creating any evil which a person does. (If He does not create it at all, this means the annulment of the free will He has given to humanity.) So, since creation is concerned with the good results that issue, the creation of evil is not evil; rather, it is good. Since the Mu‘tazila could not understand this subtle reality, they asserted that the creation of evil is evil, and the creation of ugliness is an ugly deed. In order to hold God Almighty free of all faults and defects, they did not attribute the creation of evil to Him, and fell into misguidance. They wrongly interpreted one of the six pillars of belief, namely, believing in Divine Destiny and Decree, which requires us to confirm that whether we judge a thing to be good or evil, it is from God.

As for the second part of the question, which is concerned with how someone who commits a major sin can remain a believer, it has convincingly been explained in the foregoing Indications (particularly the fifth one) how a believer can commit a sin. Secondly, just as the human carnal soul prefers an ounce of immediate pleasure to a ton of future pleasure, so, too, it shrinks in fear from an immediate slap more than it would from the thought of a year’s future torment.

In addition, when emotions prevail, a person does not heed the judgments of reason. Under the influence of desires and whims, they prefer the slightest immediate delight to a vast, future reward. They keep away from some trivial present distress more than they fear some dreadful postponed torment. For desires, emotions, and whims are blind to the future. When the carnal soul gives them support, the heart, which is the seat of belief, and reason can no longer speak and are defeated. So, committing major sins does not arise from a lack of belief, but from the defeat of the heart and reason through the prevalence of emotions, desires, and whims.

Furthermore, as understood from the previous Indications, as evil is the way of destruction, the way of evil and passions is easy to follow. Human and jinn satans can swiftly drive people towards it. It is an absolutely astonishing fact that although, according to a Prophetic Tradition, a light like a fly’s wing from the World of Eternity is, on account of its being eternal, equal to all the pleasures and bounties a person may receive from a whole worldly life,40 some unfortunate people can prefer the pleasures of this fleeting world to all of the pleasures of the everlasting world, and thus follow in the footsteps of Satan.

It is because of the reasons mentioned that the wise Qur’an, repeatedly and insistently, and with threats and encouragement, restrains believers from sin and urges them to do good.

This powerful, ever-recurring guidance of the wise Qur’an once made me think that such recurrent warnings and cautions show believers to be inconstant and unreliable. It presents them as being in a state irreconcilable with human honor. For, while a single order that an official receives from their superior is sufficient for them to obey, if the superior repeats the same order ten times, the official will truly be offended. He or she will retort, “You are accusing me; I am not a treacherous person.” Despite this fact, the wise Qur’an persistently repeats its orders to the most sincere believers.

When this idea drew my attention, I was with two or three of my loyal friends. I frequently warned them against the intrigues of human satans. They did not say I was accusing them or feel offended. But I said to myself, “I am offending them with my recurrent warnings. I am accusing them of disloyalty and inconstancy.”

Then, suddenly, the reality explained in the foregoing Indications occurred to me in detail. I came to understand that the persistent warnings of the Qur’an are perfectly apt, in full conformity with the situation, purely eloquent and free of any exaggeration or extraneous words, and that they are full of wisdom. I also perceived why these loyal friends of mine did not feel offended. The summary of this reality is as follows:

Since satans incite people to the way of destruction, they cause much evil with a few actions. For this reason, those who follow the way of truth and guidance need many cautions and repeated warnings and great help. This is why God Almighty offers His help to believers through His one thousand and one Names by way of recurrent warnings, and extends thousands of hands of compassion to help them. He does not wound their honor; rather, He preserves it. He does not diminish the value of the human being, but shows what great evils Satan can cause.

So, O people of truth and right guidance! The way to be saved from the aforementioned intrigues of human and jinn satans is to make your headquarters the school of the Ahl al-Sunna, who are the people of truth, and enter the stronghold of the unchanging, fundamental rules and precepts of the Qur’an of miraculous exposition, and follow the elevated Sunna of the Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings, as your guide. Thus will you find salvation.

Bediuzzaman Said Nursi

40 al-Qurtubi, al-Jami‘ li-Ahkam al-Qur’an, 13:7. (Tr.)